Saturday, June 6, 2009

An Atkins diet of Molecular Workbench

In a recent post I showed an example of how to use Molecular Workbench (MW) in a p-chem lecture. The idea with that post was to keep it simple. Here I'll tell you what I actually prepared for the lectures, but the main point is really to draw your attention to the MW simulations, which are simply wonderful.

I had two back-to-back 45 minute lectures to cover chapter 16 in Atkins et al.'s Quanta, Matter, and Change on physical equilibria, i.e. phase changes and diagrams, chemical potential, colligative properties, ideal solutions, activity, etc.

So, I scoured MW for simulations related to these topics and created a new MW document with a list of the simulations I wanted to show during lecture (the screencast shows how), which can be found here. If you use MW as your "browser" loading new simulations is much faster than, say, powerpoint.

I'll say it again: rhe main point of this post is really to draw your attention to the MW simulations, which are simply wonderful. They really bring rather abstract points (like the deviation from non-ideality) or complex behavior (like osmosis) to life, and helps keep everyone awake (including myself). I should say that thermodynamics was not why I fell in love with science.

Btw, we're using Atkins Quanta for the first time, and I find it a great improvement over his P-Chem book in the thermo-department. Most references to steam engines and phase rules are relegated to various addenda in the back of the chapters. This was clearly a painful decision, as this quote attests to

"One [point] is that one of the most celebrated results in chemical thermodynamics. the phase rule, can be used as a basis of discussing the implications of the phase diagram, but it is not essential. It is described in Further Information 16.1."

I always found lecturing on steam engines and other celebrated results of thermodynamics a bit like Mr. Burn's attempt to send a telegram to the Prussian Embassy in Siam by first aerogyro: a tad dated. And on that note, I believe it is time to 23-skidoo.

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